The International Criminal Court (ICC) was seen as a breakthrough by many in 1998 – an end to international injustice; to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – it was set out to “create a fairer world”.
But over the years the ICC has been tested to its legislative limits, and questioned on its integrity. Leaders have backed it and whacked it, experts have questioned the feasibility of its mission; it has been accused of racism, of favouritism and caused wide-spread controversy.
CGTN Africa explore the making of the ICC and some of its most notable cases.
In July 1998, at a United Nations (U.N.) conference in Rome, 160 countries gathered to overwhelmingly approve a statute to establish a permanent and independent ICC – the first of its kind. Four years later, during a U.N. treaty event in April of 2002, the Rome Statute of the ICC received the 60th ratification required to trigger its entry into force. Later that year, the ICC was fully active and began its jurisdiction over many international crimes.
The concept of an international court was first called in 1946, and through the years leading up to 1998 the U.N. General Assembly had repeatedly called for an ICC to founded – but was shut down by opposition or plans were stifled by situation. But as the number of U.N. peacekeeping operations increased, from Croatia to Trinidad and Tobago, it strengthened the discussion of the need for an ICC.
Through the road to Rome and after, the ICC has become an established Court on the international scene and has removed the burden of requesting and overseeing the investigation and prosecution of international criminal law violations from the U.N. Security Council.
The ICC opens up plans to launch a formal investigation into Uganda after the Ugandan government refers their own country – the situation in Northern Uganda – to the court.
The ICC investigations in Uganda focus on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of an armed conflict predominantly between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the national authorities, mainly in Northern Uganda, since 1 July 2002. The Court go onto issue first warrant of arrest in 2005, one LRA member is arrested in 2015, but other top members remain at large.
DR Congo, 2004
The ICC begins investigations into the DRC, focusing on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed mainly in eastern DRC, in the Ituri region and the North and South Kivu provinces.
In opening the investigation in June 2004, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor issues a press release acknowledging that alleged crimes were reported since the 1990’s, but that the Court’s jurisdiction will start on 1 July 2002, and states: “States, international organisations and non-governmental organisations have reported thousands of deaths by mass murder and summary execution in the DRC since 2002. The reports allege a pattern of rape, torture, forced displacement and the illegal use of child soldiers.”
Two are convicted, and one is acquitted – there is an ongoing trial for another.
Darfur, Sudan, 2005
The ICC investigations regarding Darfur focus on allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, Sudan.
It is determined that the situation in Sudan is a threat to international peace and security, and the Court leads an investigation into reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties.
Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir becomes the first sitting President to be wanted by the ICC, and the first person to be charged by the ICC for the crime of genocide. Neither of the two warrants of arrest against him are successfully enforced.
The ICC open an investigation into CAR to focus on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of a conflict in CAR since 1 July 2002, with the peak of violence in 2002 and 2003.
In opening the investigation in May 2007, the Office of the Prosecutor issues a press release stating: “Based on a preliminary analysis of alleged crimes, the peak of violence and criminality occurred in 2002 and 2003. Civilians were killed and raped; and homes and stores were looted. The alleged crimes occurred in the context of an armed conflict between the government and rebel forces. This is the first time the Prosecutor is opening an investigation in which allegations of sexual crimes far outnumber alleged killings. (…) Hundreds of rape victims have come forward to tell their stories, recounting crimes acted out with particular cruelty. Reports detailing their accounts were ultimately provided to the Prosecutor’s Office. Victims described being raped in public; being attacked by multiple perpetrators; being raped in the presence of family members; and being abused in other ways if they resisted their attackers. Many of the victims were subsequently shunned by their families and communities.”
Court cases are still ongoing.
ICC starts investigations to focus on alleged crimes against humanity committed in the context of post-election violence in Kenya in 2007/08, in six of the eight Kenyan Provinces: Nairobi, North Rift Valley, Central Rift Valley, South Rift Valley, Nyanza Province and Western Province.
The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber notes the gravity and scale of the violence, stating that over 1,000 people are killed, over 900 acts of documented rape and sexual violence, approximately 350,000 people displaced, and over 3,500 seriously injured from the violence. There are also notes of brutality – burning victims alive, beheadings and machetes being used to hack people to death – among many other violent crimes.
Charges are not confirmed or are withdrawn concerning six key suspects.
The ICC looks into the violence and use of force against civilians, “deploring the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including the repression of peaceful demonstrators, expressing deep concern at the deaths of civilians, and rejecting unequivocally the incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population made from the highest level of the Libyan government.”
The referral notes that the widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity, and expresses concern at the plight of refugees forced to flee the violence and at reports of shortages of medical supplies to treat the wounded.
An arrest warrant against Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi is issued for crimes against humanity, but is withdrawn, on 22 November 2011, due to his death.
Côte d’Ivoire, 2011
The investigation focuses on alleged crimes against humanity committed during the 2010/2011 post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire. According to reports, the post-election violence erupts after Presidential election results between opponents Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Alassane Ouattara are disputed.
The ICC intends to investigate the actions of both pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces for directing attacks on the civilian population. Raids by excessive force in heavily populated areas and military roadblocks that result in many being shot are enough to convince the Prosecutor to submit acts that are on a “large scale”, highlighting that around 1 million people have been displaced, and the existence of several mass graves.
Many are currently being investigated for crimes against humanity.
The ICC has a track record of intervening in some of the world’s most brutal crimes in the 21st century. Under huge scrutiny for not seen as being effective enough, the clear difficulty lies in the extremities of these crimes and of the environment that they are committed in.